Look into the mirror. What you see, you reflect to your beloved “Mitokozapi” grandchildren. The first thing is to try to be all that you want your grandchildren to be. Reflect all of the attributes of a whole, loving, compassionate, well-balanced human being. When they look at you let them see respect, integrity, loyalty, honesty, courage, concern, humbleness, tenderness, justice, optimism, and compassion – the whole range of positive characteristics neatly wrapped in a beautiful red ribbon of LOVE!
Develop your grandchildren’s imagination. Encourage them to expand their thinking patterns by becoming involved in their imaginings, their make-believe, and their daydreams. Show them old photos of the little girls at play with their little “doll-babies” and their little tipis, hand-sewn and made to scale. Show old photos of the little boys playing at hunting or horse games. This is their initiation into early adulthood.
Delay academic training, the regimenting kind, at least in their early years. What if they don’t start the first grade until they reach their 7th or 8th birthday or later? Let them enjoy and relish their early years where they can expand their bodies, feelings, minds and spirits– those things not of an academic nature. Let them see a little nest of bird eggs hatch or Sweet Pea have her colt or take them with you when you cut willows for a “sweat lodge.” There are so many things of nature for young minds and hearts to discover and experience. Our young ones are truly free for such a brief period.
In the fall of 1928 we were living in the little town of Mobridge, South Dakota, just across the Missouri River from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. When school opened in the fall, I went up to the local school to enrol in school. I had never been in a school like that one, being more familiar with the Indian Mission Boarding School at St. Elizabeth on the Reservation. Well, the first day I walked up to the school and entered a big room, much like a lobby. I noticed there were doors leading into several different rooms, a broad stairway leading to an upper floor, and a stairway leading down to a back doorway. Soon a bell rang and all of the students disappeared into the rooms and I was left alone in the lobby. After standing there for a while, I walked to the back stairs, descended to the lower level and since the door was wide open, I walked out and returned home.
I enjoyed going to that school but after a week of it, I quit making the fruitless walk and remained home. After some time my Tunkasila, my grandfather Tipi Sapa, Philip Deloria, said, “Takoja, I notice you around the house lately. Aren’t you going to school?” I said, “No grandfather.” He very nonchalantly said “Oh,” and that was all that was ever said
Of course it was my duty to always be at grandfather’s side, as he had great difficulty in getting around due to a stroke he had suffered a year and a half earlier. Well, I spent that entire winter in the company of those great, old men, listening to them reminisce. I heard so many great old stories of our Dakota people in their days of glory. It seemed that every story had to be accompanied by a good song.
Late in the spring, my Aunt Ella Deloria returned home and she noticed me around the house every day. Of course the inevitable question came up to which I had to tell the truth. Aunt Ella then questioned Grandpa about my school status and he said, “Yes, he has been with me every day! This time with me will be more valuable in his life than the time he would spend in a school that my grandson doesn't understand the first thing about. I am an old man. My grandson is just a young boy. The things he has learned and will learn here with me, he can never learn in a school.” Just as he said, I learned more in that year than I would have learned in any academic situation. In my 89 winters, I too have found that there are so many things to learn beyond academics that enrich our lives.
In our relationship with our grandchildren always look at the big picture. Encourage and support them through all phases of their development. Don’t be short sighted or narrow. Try to visualize the young man or woman – fully in balance on all four sides, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Do not restrict children to time limits. Permit them to be free – no clock, which comes all too soon.
Never trap a child in any situation; always give them a way to escape. Don’t ever put a child’s dignity in jeopardy. This is a good time and place to tell them an interesting and meaningful “ohukaka” story’ a story that teaches them the spiritual meanings and lessons of life.
Don’t ever be critical of a child, even though it may be deserved. Be wise in your appraisal of any situation and address it in a positive tone rather than in a negative way.
Be very positive in rewarding honesty. This is the very foundation of integrity (moral soundness). You can never give them too much.
In your discussions with children, get down on their level, physically, on your knees or lower. Remember they live in a world of giants. Speak in pleasant tones, never shout. Give them 100% of your attention. This develops faith and confidence in them. Faith and confidence are the basis of respect and the foundation of dignity.
Maintain the grandfather-grandchild relationship. This is a beautiful relationship that lasts a lifetime and beyond the grave.
Try always to use those terms of relationship “mitakosa” (my grandchild), they in turn reply, “Lala ” or other similiar terms that exsist in our bueatiful Indigenous languages! It creates the sense of belonging.
The worst and most tragic emotion to a child is abandonment, it can lead to suicide. Among our Dakota people a key importance of the extended family is to maintain security.
Build this sense of security in your grandchildren. Always be a strong spiritual warrior in the eyes of your grandchildren. If there is ever a chance of any danger, always stand between this danger and your family. Then, in case of danger, their first thought will be, “we will be safe with Lala.”
Always strive to motivate your grandchildren in every way possible. This takes some effort, as you must always approach life with dedication, courage, compassion, and purpose. The value of sincere praise and gratitude toward your grandchildren can never be underestimated!
Inspire children to try new things and let them make mistakes. Never be constantly correcting a child so they might avoid mistakes – they’re smart, they will soon turn the whole job over to you. When they reach maturity and they are on their own, a lot of pain and frustration is waiting for them. Ensure that they prepared to take care of themselves!
Develop a sense of humour in your children by always trying to see the humour in everyday life. Be free with your jokes and kidding but never make them a butt of a joke – no mean spirited teasing, it brings no good.
When you feel it is necessary to discipline a child, do it only in the presence of the two of you. Never let what took place between you be known to anyone else.
Develop respect by being respectful. Maintain a value system that helps the child, at an early age, to begin distinguishing character building and spiritual qualities from those things of only a temporal, transitory value.
Teach children their role or place in the scheme of things so that they will learn to respect all living things. First they start by learning to treat themselves with respect and dignity. Then they learn what their role is within their immediate family, their extended family, and finally with all of society.
Practice charity at all times!
Always be aware of a child’s overall development and special gifts. Unusual talent usually manifests itself at an early age. Creator given talents should be nurtured and recognized. In the early days our great medicine men and women, leaders, and thinkers were recognized at a very early age and so were developed by their older peers from a young age. The mainstream people may think they were first to come up with the “Gifted Child” program – well they weren’t too far off – a few hundred years or more, maybe.
Always keep your grandchildrens confidence. Let them know that Lala is a safe place to share their closest secrets. Help them to share all those things that may be painful. Never betray thier confidence and what they sare with you!
Develop integrity and self-respect. Let them see the order and harmony that exists in Nature.
Do not let injustice prevail. If you are in the wrong be quick to admit it and make amends.
Be very clear in defining anything to children. Be very positive that they understand explicitly every detail that you are sharing with them. Never let them proceed with the least amount of doubt.
Be honest in all of your associations, as children are not easily fooled. Worse yet, dishonesty will affect their belief system and break thier trust in you!
Be just in any disciplinary action. Never act on hearsay. Always allow your children to present their side of any situation. The one bringing a complaint against a child sees only one side. On the other hand, from their way of thinking, the child may be completely justified for their action. This kind of justice builds character.
Never let your grandchildren dwell on failure. If we want our grandchildren to be winners, then we must put the emphasis on winning. Make sure that they are never over-matched or above their level of competence. As they begin getting older push them enough so that they can learn to function under pressure, but always be aware of how much pressure they can stand.
In their relationship with others, playmates, brothers, sisters, cousins, impress on them how important it is to respect each others space. This is perhaps a good place to emphasize the Golden Rule and growth on the moral side.
Finally, inspire your grandchildren to look for happiness, which is based upon a strong spiritual understanding, commitment and moral foundation. Pray with them. Make prayer and selfless service to others a natural function of everyday life, like eating or sleeping. Teach your children the Sacredness of all Creation that they may love and respect all things of our Creator.
I quote young Phil Jr., who once made this statement, "Great Nations are a natural result of great People!"
With Great Love, Encourage anf Respect to All Those That Are Walking The Red Road! When It Comes Time To Go To "The Other Side Camp" You Will Make This Journey With Happiness,Thanksgiving and Without Regrets!
Mato Gi, Brown Bear, Phil Lane Sr., Ihanktonwan Dakota,